The UUP is dithering over whether it will take its places on the policing board.The only law ever passed for Northern Ireland since partition that directly discriminates against a religious group, the 50:50 rule, wasn’t enough to stop the UUP from signing up to the Policing Board the last time but the argument over one seat on the Board could this time.
The disagreement gets even curiouser as the independent nominees include Joe Byrne of the SDLP and Trevor Ringland of the UUP. Both parties have got three nominees by different routes. Also if Sinn Fein joins the Policing Board Joe Byrne and Trevor Ringland will probably remain but if they had been political nominees they would have been replaced by the two republican nominees.
The sabre-rattling is high stakes for Empey who has played a bad hand reasonably well since assuming the leadership. However, the Hermonites were incensed by the withdrawal of the UUP councillors from the Belfast District Policing Partnership following the anti-Parades Commission riots in September.
Backing down after repeatedly raising the issue will not communicate strength. Boycotting could cause internal problems. Perhaps, the UUP believe the circumstances that will get Sinn Fein on to the Policing Board will force the DUP off vindicating their boycott and showing them in the lead of Unionism? Whichever of the three it is, it will offer an answer to the question now how big is the UUP and its leadership willing to gamble?